As he writhed and grimaced, threw his head back in ecstatic abandon, this was clearly a deeply personal view of the Dvorák Cello Concerto from soloist Steven Isserlis.
The BBC SSO, with Thomas Dausgaard & Steven Isserlis ****
City Halls, Glasgow
It might have all felt a bit too much, had it not been for the sincerity of his playing, as though each of Dvořák’s achingly Romantic phrases held a personal meaning for him. From his determined, strongly defined entrance through to an intensely introspective, hushed close, he was as passionate as he was persuasive – and his mesmerising approach continued in the tenderness and precision of his encore, the ‘Song of the Birds’ in a new arrangement by Sally Beamish.The big problem, however, was balance. For all his carefully articulated detail, Isserlis was often simply drowned out by Thomas Dausgaard’s bright, energetic BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, on magnificently nimble, strongly projected form, but so forthright under a galvanising Dausgaard that at times the detail of Isserlis’s playing was simply lost.
Nonetheless, it was a remarkably fresh performance from the Orchestra, and that freshness continued in a wonderfully turbulent Elgar First Symphony, attacked with enormous vigour by Dausgaard, who seemed intent on blowing off years of accumulated dust and digging deep to discover the true turmoil and joy of the music beneath. His second movement scherzo had – quite remarkably – all the manic, grotesque energy of Shostakovich at his most bitingly sarcastic.
Dausgaard and the BBC SSO are fast developing a very fruitful relationship – even if there might be times when they ought to rein in the excitement.